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How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources 365

MarkWhittington writes "With the Chang'e 3 and its rover Jade Rabbit safely ensconced on the lunar surface, the question arises: is it time to start dividing up the moon and its resources? It may well be an issue by the middle of the current century. With China expressing interest in exploiting lunar resources and a number of private companies, such Moon Express, working for the same goal, a mechanism for who gets what is something that needs looking into. Moon Daily quotes a Russian official as suggesting that it can all be done in a civilized manner, through international agreements. On the other hand, law professor and purveyor of Instapundit Glenn Reynolds suggests that China might spark a moon race by having a private company claim at least parts of the moon. 'International cooperation will certainly rule supreme while there are no economic interests, while it is not clear where commercial profits lie. Scientists can't help communicating with each other and sharing ideas.'"
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How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources

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  • Enforcement (Score:2, Insightful)

    Property rights might come into play some day, when the moon is crowded or scarce materials are identified in limited places, but until then, good luck writing things down on paper on Earth and expecting anybody to care about that. Property on The Moon will belong to whoever gets there and defends their claim.

    If any Earth Nation expects to shoot down transit flights to or from the moon to enforce their paper claim, the ramifications will be far more severe than if they simply did nothing. Perhaps the poli

    • Yeah, it's not like a government can forcibly seize assets and keep you from launching to begin with.

      • Yeah, it's not like a government can forcibly seize assets and keep you from launching to begin with.

        Who's going to invade China to seize their launch assets? Make no mistake, all this kerfuffle really is about China having a million people working on their space program and investing in human presence on The Moon and Mars whilst the other nations continue to shut down their productive capacity.

        Space X is wonderful, but they'll always find a home somewhere on Earth for launches, even if their current host

      • Presumably, a company would launch from a friendly host-nation.

    • If any Earth Nation expects to shoot down transit flights to or from the moon to enforce their paper claim, the ramifications will be far more severe than if they simply did nothing.

      However, if they choose to use tarriffs and protectionism to enforce their claims then the ramifications will be even more serious than that.

  • by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:28AM (#45745709)

    He who gets there, and stays there, first with the most wins the rights.

  • by Biff Stu ( 654099 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:29AM (#45745725)

    Other than being a place to wave your flag, and maybe--and I mean maybe--a handy place to build a telescope and a base for scientific research, is it really economically viable to haul back minerals and other materials by the ton?

    • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:47AM (#45745907)
      Helium 3 is 15 million dollars per kilogram, which makes transport less of a concern and we haven't really even figured out how to use it yet., hypothetically, it is the only known element that can be used in a fusion reactor with little or NO radioactive waste.

      the only place we can get it is natural gas wells (it is extremely scarce, but sometimes found in very small quantities in wells), it happens to be relatively abundant on the moon.

      The race for the moon is really a race for clean nuclear energy, which is quite a prize.
      • You're not really pushing a rational business case here. You would typically find a use for the uber expensive material before you spend a lot of money going after said expensive material.

        • I guess... it was 7.5 million dollars per kilo 2 years ago. As more and more research is done on it, we are figuring out pretty quickly that HE3 is going to be the subject of exponential demand. It will take a good solid 20-100 years of work to set up a mining operation on the moon... Will it take less or more than that to complete and prove HE3 as the ultimate nuclear energy fuel? Who can afford to risk energy independence? China? India? USA?
          • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:53PM (#45746621) Homepage Journal
            It's hard to imagine a scenario where mining HE3 on the moon is more economically viable than wind/solar/hydro. Well, maybe for powering settlements on the moon itself, but there's a chicken and egg problem there. Right now there is little incentive to setup permanent habitation on the Moon, and the only reason people can think of is to mine HE3 that would primarily go towards powering said moon settlements.

            Maybe someday we'll need to build absolutely massive space structures and it will make sense to mine the moon for raw materials to save on launch costs (especially if you're using nuclear rockets that would be politically impossible on Earth), but humanity is nowhere near undertaking this kind of project, and I fully expect it to be a pipe dream for my entire lifetime.
      • I feel like we (us humans) are playing this D&D game. We get to a level, we need to spend some time acquiring EXP and stuff before we can level up. Your comment makes me think we just found a dungeon run that would really require a larger cooperative party to beat it and get the prize (H3). Once we get that prize our energy production goes up, civilization continues and we level up.

        Now the scary part is that (1) we're not doing so well at cooperative game playing (2) the bosses are starting to get ha

    • Well, you can send metals mined from Moon to Earth, one way is a mass driver to go out and then a carefull planned "meteoric entry" using a low-cost heat shield to avoid the loss of material to atmosphere reentry. But as others have already commented, this material would be more useful on the moon and in space itself, would be much easier to build a large spaceship on the Moon than on Earth
  • by Otaku-GenX ( 3414253 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:30AM (#45745735)
    The UN isn't the best group all the time, but they are the largest international and best organized and most accepted international organization to do this. The moon is one of the best sources for Helium 3 IIRC.
  • Moot point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:32AM (#45745761)
    What's there left to discuss? If you want who is moon's owner, just check whose flag is planted on it.
  • There's already a framework for establishing claims and exercising rights on those claims, and for resolving disputes over those claims.

    Enforcement will always be the problem - since currently, and in the future, there's really no way to enforce the rules eleventy million miles away, it's going to come down to either put up or shut up, as it should.

  • by Stargoat ( 658863 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:35AM (#45745781) Journal

    Some badguy once said that the way to win a battle was "He who gets there fustest with the mostest". That typically works pretty well for most human endeavors. We should want a scramble to get to the moon. Human innovation, powered by greed, has typically been the best catalyst for moving forward. I fail to see why this would be any different.

    The UN would undoubtedly screw it up, as would any other controlling agency. So for the time being, leave it uncontrolled. It causes no harm and may do good.

  • a rough idea would be

    1 land a Bot Crew to setup Moon Base Alpha (something big enough for say 24 folks)
    2 when the bots have everything tested start sending people
    3 the first group then builds MB Beta (big enough for 120 people)
    4 after everything is tested and stable we start sending Managers
    5 MB Gamma gets built
    6 Congress critters get sent up (enough people should be there to "count")

    Worry about which nation on Dah MudBall gets which moon rocks after we can have a conference ON THE MOON

    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:01PM (#45746083) Homepage

      Nice plan, but I'd add two final steps:

      7. After the Congress critters are sent up there, we send lawyers and other politicians.
      8. Recall any science folks sent there to set up the place and let them run the whole setup into the ground in an isolated fashion.

      Optional step 9: Broadcast the whole thing as a great new reality show: Politicians and Lawyers On The Moon!

    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:08PM (#45746163) Homepage
      The problem with mining the moon, and space travel in general, is a pure physics problem. One that isn't easily solved. The reason that we haven't advanced space travel much in the past 30 years is because it's actually not really solvable without some huge leap in technology, such as anti-gravity drives or space elevators, which are all science fiction at the moment.

      The problem is this. Since there's little-to-no air for spacecraft to put against as we leave the atmosphere, the only way we can accelerate (or resists accelerating back towards the earth), as we reach the upper atmosphere is to eject mass out the back of the spacecraft at high speed. Due to Newton's third law, pushing mass out the back of a spacecraft creates a reactive force propelling the spacecraft forward. You can't have an electric spacecraft like you can an electric car because there's no road for the spacecraft to push against. For every gram of cargo you want to put into space, you have to have enough fuel to propel that mass into space, also, remembering that the fuel itself has mass, which itself must be propelled a certain distance until it is expelled.
    • 4 after everything is tested and stable we start sending Managers

      4.5 Rot and decay quickly sets it. Critical systems begin to fail and resources dwindle as engineers and scientists responsible for upkeep and maintenance are overwhelmed with red-tape and paperwork, and eventually outnumbered by a vast legion of administrative staff who inexplicably are given decision making responsibility in MB Beta.

      The last computer log transmission from MB Beta recorded that the colonists died enmasse shortly after senior

  • by beltsbear ( 2489652 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:51AM (#45745951)

    First place the moon far away.
    Next introduce a large gravity well around earth. Then make sure there is a vacuum on the moon and the only source of power is the sun.

    That will avoid a scramble for a long time.

  • ...that's where all the good stuff is.

  • that this guy the other day selling me the Moon was for real?
  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:55AM (#45746007)
    The shuttle cost $10k/lb to bring things 200 miles up to the ISS. SpaceX knocks that considerably. Now lets talk about going to the moon, being able to actually mine something, and bring it back. There is nothing that values in the $1M+/lb to go and get. It's not cost effective and will be much more than 50 years until it is and there is any sort of land grab because of it. Until then the Moon is huge, and the players so limited there will be no butting heads.
  • Never give away part of something you might want all of later.

  • All that matters is Boots on the Ground.

    The international "can't get there" crowd, U.S. included, can only whine and posture in the U.N. as the Chinese strip mine [] whatever valuable resources they find there.
  • AVOID?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <.jscott.farrow. .at.> on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:22PM (#45746303)

    Why the HELL would you want to AVOID a scramble for Lunar resources? This is something to actively encourage, to get some permanent human settlements off this rock.

    Every man/country for themselves, and may the best and fastest effort win.


    • Why the HELL would you want to AVOID a scramble for Lunar resources? This is something to actively encourage, to get some permanent human settlements off this rock.

      Wow. How sad. I had to scroll a very long time to reach this point.

      Capitalism has a whole bunch of drawbacks, but one of the things it does well is provide incentive to develop things. And we need to develop space, and there's a lot of good reasons why our moon is a good candidate for the first large-scale establishment(s).

      Unless we're expecting to find alien artifacts (or Atlantean! oooOooOo!) in the moon dust, why do we care who starts strip-mining the moon first? If we're going to do anything about it, w

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